End of a season

November 19, 2016

It’s been a long fall. My son is sixteen years old, a junior in high school and he’s struggling with everything.

School. Football. Each other. His sister and dad. There are also things I’m not going to talk about because what I believe are dangerous choices he sees as decisions that are his to make. I work hard to filter my words, grope for kind gestures like buying the right snacks and not complaining when he leaves a trail of wrappers across the living room. (That is either a kind gesture or the action of a person that is tired and is learning to pick her battles.) When I lean in for a hug, I don’t wince when he pulls away.

I yell at him for leaving his window open, for being unkind to his sister, for playing rap music loud enough to wake up our neighbor who is 87 and deaf in one ear.

It’s the end of the football season. For a few weeks, he was thrown off the team. Tonight was the last game of the season. For the first time, he invited me. He texted me, he called me, he left me a voicemail with details about where the game was and when it started.

I didn’t want to go. It was starting at the tail end of rush hour on a Friday night. I had a dog to walk, a book to read and that middle aged obsession with yoga that seemed to start as soon as his voice started to crack.

But it’s been a long, long time since he’s asked me to go to a game.

I got there really late. It starts getting dark at 5 now, and I arrived at around 630. I found a seat in the front row of the bleachers. I sat alone, the parents were settled in conversation, and this was my first game of the season.

I watched him stand on the edge of the field, number 88. He glanced in my direction once, then he returned his full attention to the players on the field. Our team was up by about 15 points when I got there, and even though there was a lot of cheering and yelling on both sides, the score didn’t move.

My son watched from the sidelines, standing next to all the other kids, watching from the sidelines, while the team went on to win the game.

When it was over, I jumped up to walk to my car. I didn’t feel like small talk. I was the parent of the boy who’d been thrown off the team. I was the parent who hadn’t been to a game all season.

From the field, I heard my son call out “Mom!”

I walked over to him. I wasn’t sure it was actually his voice, he’s never acknowledged me during a game.

“Sorry I got here late. Good game.”

He took off his helmet and shrugged. “They didn’t play me once.”

“I’m sorry, honey.”

“It’s okay, mom. .. I love you”

He sauntered back towards his teammates.

We live in a war zone, sometimes, my son and me. There have been times in the past few months where I’ve wondered if I should send him away somewhere, physically wrestled with him for his phone, threatened to call the police, screamed at each other until we were both hoarse, breathless and red in the face.

Tonight, at the end of a winning game, during which the coach hadn’t let him even go in for a snap, he left the team to walk over and tell me he loved me.

I think that when he noticed me sitting alone on the bleachers, watching him, standing alone on the field, he was worried about me. Everyone else was in pairs or groups.

I didn’t care. I was just there to watch him.I was there so that he’d know I’d go anywhere if he asked me to.

My son showed up to a game even though he knew he wasn’t going to get a chance to touch the football. When they won, he was one of the first kids to rush the field to celebrate.

He showed up. I showed up.

Next year, maybe he’ll play a little and I’ll get there before the fourth quarter.

It’s nice, this feeling that next year might be something to look forward to.

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